Priority Questions.

Inland Waterways.

Dinny McGinley


1 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had communication from the Northern Ireland Office in relation to activities within Waterways Ireland; if he has responded to its queries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37100/06]

I received correspondence from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt. Hon. Peter Hain MP, on 14 September 2006. I replied to his letter on 2 October 2006 and I am arranging for a copy of the correspondence to be forwarded to the Deputy.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am pleased that he responded so promptly to the communication from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I am sure the Minister would agree that Waterways Ireland has tremendous potential for both sides of the Border. It is in charge of a very important asset, the administration of our lakes, rivers and canals. Does the Minister agree that this cross-Border body has been continually dogged by controversy since its institution? It is rapidly reaching the stage where there may be a danger of a complete breakdown between the northern and the southern elements of the organisation. Waterways Ireland is becoming a regular topic for discussion not only in this Parliament, but also in other parliaments of these islands.

Does the Minister further agree that serious allegations made with regard to bullying in the organisation have been upheld? There has been malpractice in terms of appointments and mismanagement of the organisation, which could do serious damage to North-South relations. Appointments to senior positions that should have been publicly advertised for open competition proceeded without adherence to the procedure in spite of undertakings given in Stormont in 2002 that senior appointments would be made by open competition involving public advertisement. Serious claims have been made of discrimination in these appointments on grounds of religion, politics and nationality, which would be disastrous if found to be true.

Can the Minister confirm if some of these more recent accusations are the subject of an investigation in Northern Ireland? I understand that one of the people who alleges discrimination has applied to the Fair Employment Tribunal there. In spite of the best efforts of Waterways Ireland, this case is being processed and heard at present. These are very serious accusations, which I have raised here on a number of previous occasions. While I understand the great potential of the organisation, being continually dogged by such controversies will do no service to us here or our people in Northern Ireland.

As a North-South implementation body, Waterways Ireland has an excellent record in managing its core business. When I met my counterpart, Rt. Hon. David Hanson MP earlier this year, we noted with satisfaction the achievement made by Waterways Ireland against the 2005 business plan objectives and its steady progress on the main targets for 2006. We jointly expressed our support for the ongoing work of developing and promoting the inland waterways network on the island and commended Waterways Ireland for its progressive approach in identifying the issues facing staff in a cross-Border context, bringing together existing and new staff from different backgrounds and cultures and putting in place a positive plan for the future of the organisation.

On the case to which the Deputy has alluded, the allegations made were very serious and were taken as such by my Department and the co-sponsoring Department in Northern Ireland. An independent investigation was carried out into the allegations of bullying, harassment and related matters in Waterways Ireland by independent investigators appointed by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland. The report of the investigators was submitted to the two Departments. The bulk of the allegations were not upheld by the investigation. This is a matter of fact. The investigation, which was independent of Waterways Ireland and the two Departments, came to the conclusion that the bulk of the allegations could not be upheld. Having said that, the report recommended a number of actions to be taken by Waterways Ireland. The Department subsequently monitored progress on agreed actions. All the agreed actions have now been delivered upon by the CEO to the satisfaction of the two Departments, which are satisfied that this brings the matter to a close.

Obviously, any person not satisfied with the process to date is entitled to pursue further processes. I recognise that anybody with a grievance can ultimately go through the courts to vindicate his or her rights. We have followed a very good process in this case. This is not the first time this issue has been raised. We have provided as much information as possible, recognising people's rights to privacy.

I thank the Minister for the information he has given. Was any disciplinary action taken following the investigation, which upheld allegations of bullying and malpractice in making appointments in Waterways Ireland? Why are staff in Waterways Ireland here paid more than their counterparts in Northern Ireland for the same sort of work and responsibilities?

I cannot give a detailed answer on the second issue today. I will get the Deputy an explanation. I am sure whatever is done is by agreement. Obviously, marrying two jurisdictions with different rates of pay and different tax systems poses its challenges. I understand that all these issues are being addressed.

I believe I have already supplied the Deputy with a copy of recommended actions to be taken by Waterways Ireland following the report of the investigators. Those recommendations have been fully implemented. One of the people with a grievance, who represented part of the subject of the investigation, has taken a case against Waterways Ireland for his dismissal and is seeking reinstatement. It is that person's right and nobody will deny him it. Obviously, Waterways Ireland will defend itself and its action in that case, particularly based on the investigator's report.

Irish Language.

Brian O'Shea


2 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made in the discussions between his Department and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in relation to the translation of Acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37101/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Supreme Court in 2001 found that there is a constitutional obligation to publish translations into Irish of Acts of the Oireachtas enacted in English only. Individual members of the court found that the provision of the translation should be by "a fairly rapid procedure", or "virtually simultaneously", or "as soon as practicable and there is clearly scope for the contention... that it must be available before the Act is sought to be enforced on a person competent and wishing to conduct his official affairs in Irish".

The terms of the judgment in this regard are reflected in section 7 of the Official Languages Act, which came into effect on 14 July last. There have been ongoing discussions between my Department and the Oireachtas staff and between myself and other members of the Government and the commission on the effect of that provision.

The Government has made it clear to the commission that provision of additional resources, if required, is not an issue. I have assured the commission on behalf of the Government that the necessary funding for translation work, including staff and other costs, will be provided during the next funding period. The precise details of the funding required will need to be worked out between the commission and the Department of Finance, as will the precise way in which the agreement should be provided for in the forthcoming legislation to replace the funding provisions of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Act 2003.

I thank the Minister for that comprehensive reply on section 7 of the Official Languages Act. Is the Minister aware of any unacceptable delay in producing the Irish version of any Act since this legislation came into effect? Is it his view that the commission is the appropriate vehicle for that particular function? Does it have the resources, the staff and, in particular, access to the highly skilled translators needed for this precise legal work? Would it not be a better idea if the sponsoring Departments had the responsibility for producing the Irish version of an Act because they produce the English version of the Bill? Should Departments not have a contemporaneous function in terms of translating a Bill to ensure that when the Bill is eventually enacted there are not any undue delays which can inhibit important processes outside this House that flow from particular items of legislation?

To answer the last question, when we discussed the Official Languages Act with a view to reducing the burden on the entire system, we agreed here that we would not ask for Bills to be translated. That does not stop somebody doing preliminary work but it was decided that it would be too much to ask the system to translate every manifestation of a Bill. That was a right decision.

The second question concerns who should do that function. The responsibility for translation of Acts of the Oireachtas rests with the Oireachtas and that has been the case since the foundation of the State. That is reflected in Standing Order 18 of the Standing Orders of the Oireachtas. That is why we are in this position.

There is a challenge for all of us. Government is not trying to dump this problem on anybody else. I recognise the challenges. It does not matter whether I am a member of the Government or a Member of the Oireachtas, we have collective responsibility for fulfilling what are our constitutional obligations. If anything, it could be argued that the Official Languages Act bought us some time because if the court had asked us we would have said that we had put a process in place that gave us a window of three years. Otherwise, it could have asked for it much quicker. That danger existed, although I do not know if it would have materialised. Nobody knows until one goes before a court, but the Official Languages Act gave us a window in that we could say the State was providing a legislative framework to deal with its constitutional obligations.

On whether it should be done here rather than in the Department, in terms of efficiency it should be done in one place but the Oireachtas is responsible for legislation, not Departments. The Oireachtas passes legislation and we have to be satisfied, as Members of the Oireachtas, that there is a standard and an evenness about this process that only the Oireachtas or an agency could provide. The problem is that legislation is made by the Oireachtas. There are arguments to the effect that the authentic version of legislative measures should be produced by the Oireachtas for the Oireachtas because its Members are making the legislation.

The real challenge facing us is not who should do this function because regardless of who does it the same amount of legislation will have to be translated and the same challenges in terms of highly skilled staff and getting the best technology will face us. There is some fantastic technology that could reduce much of the drudgery in translation.

The third aspect is money. The Government has said clearly, and I repeat, that money is not an issue. The money needed will be provided and we accept that can only come from one source, the Department of Finance. We will work with the commission on the issue of staff provision. I have no doubt that if money is needed for the provision of the new technology that is available, which can automatically translate every sentence produced previously, thereby cutting out much of the unnecessary drudgery of legislation, including finance Bills and social welfare Bills and others with fairly similar provisions, it will be provided. This technology could indicate the ones that are the same and do the translation without the intervention of a human hand.

There are ways to tackle this problem, which is a joint one. We are working together and ongoing discussions are taking place to deliver a solution. It is imperative that we reach the point soon where, very shortly after the passing of Bills by the Oireachtas, there is a version available in the two official languages, as is the constitutional obligation. It is clearly laid down also in the Supreme Court judgment.

Will the Minister not agree that already the publication of important Bills is being delayed, that he is not even close to putting in place a translation system, that we are heading for somewhat of a mess in that regard and that other ways have to be considered? I accept all the points the Minister made but it appears the Oireachtas commission is not the appropriate body to have responsibility for this issue. I am concerned that the delay in publishing important legislation will become worse because it is clear from what the Minister said that he does not know where he stands on this issue.

We are very clear where we are——

It is clear to me the Minister is nowhere on the issue.

There are two requirements for increasing the number of translators and to do that we need money and equipment. We are dealing with those issues.

Does the Minister have any specialised translators?

It does not matter whether they are employed by the Oireachtas Commission or anybody else. Whoever employs them must be able to control what they do to meet legislative standards and ensure that what is in the Irish translation reflects the measure the House passed. That is very important. There must be controls to ensure the Oireachtas is satisfied that the Irish language version is authentic.

We want to work to the situation that existed for many years when translations were done without machines or computers. Every Act of the Oireachtas — I accept there were not as many — was simultaneously produced in Irish and English. We must get back to that situation. With the implementation of the Act we have created some space in which to deal with the arrears. We must listen carefully to what the Supreme Court said about the responsibility of the whole State, no matter who has it——

The responsibility is not the issue.

Allow the Minister to speak without interruption.

The translation should be a fairly rapid procedure or virtually simultaneous. That is based on the constitutional provision. Effectively, by bringing in the legislation we gave ourselves a three year window. That three year window is up and we are working positively with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to deal with this issue and I have no doubt we will resolve it.

Ceist a trí in ainm a Theachta Sargent.

A Cheann Comhairle, is ceist a cúig not being taken with this question, which is on the same subject?

No. These are Priority Questions and they are taken on their own. We now take ceist a trí in ainm a Theachta Sargent.


Trevor Sargent


3 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil aird tugtha aige ar thuairimí mhuintir Chorca Dhuibhne mar aon le tuairimí mhuintir Dhaingean Uí Chúis maidir le hainm an bhaile agus cad atá beartaithe aige a dhéanamh faoin gceist anois. [37285/06]

I dtús báire, ní miste dom a mhíniú don Teachta go mbeidh mé ag casadh le Comhairleoirí de chuid Chomhairle Chontae Chiarraí ar an 17 Samhain 2006 chun an cheist seo a phlé. Tá i gceist agam freisin freastal ar chruinniú poiblí i mbaile an Daingin an lá céanna chun éisteacht le tuairimí mhuintir na háite, ceisteanna a fhreagairt agus eolas a thabhairt ar an gceist seo agus ar nithe a bhaineann le scéimeanna Gaeltachta agus Forbairt Tuaithe mo Roinne.

Mar a chuir mé in iúl le linn Ráitis i Seanad Éireann ar 1 Samhain seo caite, tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh an cruinniú leis na Comhairleoirí ar 17 Samhain seo chugainn deis chun gach gné den cheist a phlé agus comhthuiscint a lorg faoi bhealach praiticiúil chun í a réiteach.

Is maith an rud é tuairimí an phobail a lorg trí reifreann agus ba mhaith liom sin a fheiceáil níos minice, mar a tharlaíonn san Eilvéis agus tíortha eile. Luaigh an tAire go mbeadh cruinniú poiblí ann ar 17 Samhain. An mbeidh tuairim daoine ón cheantar thart faoin Daingean ar lorg, daoine ón Ghaeltacht ina bhfuil an Daingean mar phríomhbhaile chomh maith le muintir an bhaile féin? An ndéanfar sin ag an chruinniú poiblí nó an féidir tuairimí a lorg idir an dá linn? Caidé seasamh an reifrinn mar d'eagraigh Comhairle Chondae Chiarraíé? Cad eile atá le déanamh le toradh a bhaint amach ar an phróiseas seo?

Bhí reifreann ann ach tá mé fós ag fanacht ar scéal ón gcomhairle chondae i ndiaidh an reifrinn. Tá an chomhairle ag fanacht go dtiocfaidh mise ann. Tá sé mínithe cheanna féin agam go bhfuil comhairle agam ón Ard Aighne nach mbaineann Acht 1946, a bhí leasaithe am éigin sna 1950í, leis an ábhar anseo. Nuair a tugadh isteach Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, chuir sé deireadh le haon fheidhm leis an meicníocht áirithe sin.

Ní shin le rá nach féidir le Comhairle Chondae Chiarraí reifreann a eagrú, ceist dó féin é, agus sin a rinne sé. Tá muid ag rá ó thaobh an dhlí de nach bhfuil aon fheidhm le hAcht 1946 nó 1952. Sé an comhairle atá agam nach féidir feidhmiú air ó thaobh an dhlí sin.

Nuair a deirim gur comhairle ón Ard Aighne é, agus sin é mo thuiscint air, níl mé ach ag tabhairt an scéil a tugadh dom. Níl mé ag léiriú aon bharúil ina thaobh ach ag míniú an scéil mar atá. Tá mé ag dul go dtí an comhairle condae leis na féidearthachtaí ar fad a phlé uair amháin eile mar phlé mé cheana féin iad leis agus le féachaint cén bealach ar aghaidh atá ann.

Beidh cruinniú poiblí ann agus beidh fáilte roimh an bpobal ar fad. Má thiocfaidh daoine as Lios Tuathail nó Dún Chaoin nó Baile an Fheirtéaraigh chomh maith le Baile an Daingin, beidh míle fáilte rompu. Níl mé ag iarraidh cosc a chur orthu. Is ceart go mbeidh deis ag an bpobal ceisteanna a chur faoi seo mar tá míthuiscintí ann. Ní thuigeann daoine go bhfuil muid tar éis socrú go mbeidh na léarscáileanna bóthair ar fad dhátheangach. Ní thuigeann siad gur féidir le heagraíochtaí turasóireachta iarratas a dhéanamh le comhartha mór a chur suas le Dingle scríofa air; níl fadhb leis sin. Tá ráfla ag dul thart gur tugadh treoir do RTÉ úsáid a bhaint as an Daingean nuair a bhí sé ag tagairt don Daingean. Is léir nach fíor sin mar úsáidtear Belmullet gach lá agus tá sin sa nGaeltacht. Níl bunús le sin. Tá an mhalairt fíor san Acht. Tá 100% cosaint san Acht don leagan Dingle ach i dtrí chás éisceachtúil, péire acu nach mbaineann le saol ó lá go lá agus tá cúis gur mhaith liom deis a bheith agam dhul isteach ann go mion faoin leagan amach maidir le comharthaíocht. An rud atá i gceist ná gur cheart go mbeadh comharthaíocht do thurasóirí mar an chéile don áit céanna, is cuma cá bhfaighfear, gan aon fhadhb.

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an tAire ag dul go dtí an cruinniú poiblí. An bhfuil sé sásta bualadh le daoine taobh amuigh de sin mar tá tuairim ann i measc na daoine a bhí ag plé leis an reifreann go bhfuil sé níos éifeachtaí bualadh le daoine le tuairimí a phlé seachas cruinniú ollmhór, rud a bheadh achrannach, b'fhéidir? An bhfuil aon bhealach eile ag an Aire le dhul i gcomhar ar an cheist seo mar ní cheart go mbeadh sí achrannach? Tá cúrsaí achrannach go leor i nGaeltacht Ros Dumhach gan cur le cúrsaí achrannacha i nGaeltacht eile. Tá daoine ag iarraidh bualadh leis an Aire seachas freastal ar chruinniú poiblí.

Tá dhá chuireadh agam ar chruinniú. Fuair mé cuireadh ó dhream siar ón Daingean ag iarraidh casadh orm agus níl fadhb agam leis agus fuair mé cuireadh sular tháinig mé anuas ó choiste Daingean Uí Chúis agus sin mar an gcéanna. Chas mé cheana leis an gcoiste áitiúil, Dingle Placenames Committee/Coiste Ainm Daingean Uí Chúis agus le bainisteoir an chondae agus beirt chomhairleoirí in éineacht leis.

Go minic tá míthuiscint ar an bpobal maidir le bunfhíricí a bhaineann leis seo. Tá sé tábhachtach go dtiocfadh an tAire i láthair go míneoidh mé le héinne a bhfuil spéis aige ann cad iad na fíricí. Ní bheidh mé ag tabhairt breithiúnais. Tá sé ráite agam go bhfuil mé ag fanacht ar Chomhairle Chondae Chiarraí mar d'eagraigh sé an reifreann agus an t-aon éifeacht a bhí leis an reifreann ná dhul i gcomhairle leis an chomhairle chondae. An rud cúirtéiseach domsa le déanamh ó thaobh cinnidh de ná fanacht ar an dream a d'eagraigh an reifreann go gcuirfidh sé moladh faoi mo bhráid. Níl a fhios agam an bhfuil sé ag fanacht go dtí tar éis an chruinnithe a bheidh agam leis, go ndéanfaimid malairt ar tuairimí, go bpléifimid féidearthachtaí, go mbreathnóimid ar cheisteanna dlí agus mar sin agus ansin go gcuirfidh sé moladh chugam. Nuair a gheobhaidh mé moladh, mar atá geallta agam go minic, breathnóidh mé air chomh gar agus is féidir leis sin a fheidhmiú ach caithfidh mé á dhéanamh taobh istigh den dlí.

An bhfuil aon seans go dtiocfadh liom ceist a chur ar an Aire?

It is Priority Questions and there is no provision for any Deputy except the Deputy who submits the question.

Ba cheart deireadh a chur leis an amadántaíocht seo agus glacadh le Daingean/Dingle mar réiteach don gceist. Ceantar dátheangach atá ann.

It is not appropriate for the Deputy to come in and disrupt Priority Questions.

National Drugs Strategy.

Damien English


4 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made regarding the new rehabilitation tier of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37287/06]

The mid-term review of the national drugs strategy recommended the development of a fifth pillar of the strategy focusing on rehabilitation. Arising from this, a working group on drugs rehabilitation was set up in September 2005 under the aegis of my Department to develop proposals to augment existing rehabilitation services. The working group includes representatives from a range of Departments and agencies involved in delivering rehabilitation services, in addition to representatives from the national drugs strategy team, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the community and voluntary sectors. The terms of reference of the working group are broad and include examining the existing provision of rehabilitation services, identifying best practice, identifying gaps and recommending actions to develop an integrated rehabilitation service.

Some of the group's key recommendations are likely to focus on ensuring that actions 47, 48 and 50 of the strategy are met. These actions largely relate to providing a continuum of care for clients through planned progression paths for each problem drug user, while ensuring that quality standards are achieved in the services provided. The group is also likely to deal with wider supports which are needed by recovering problem drug users in areas like involvement in community employment schemes, educational supports and support with progression to employment, housing and child care. It will also recognise the need to involve the families of problem drug users in the process.

I expect the working group to complete its report by the end of the year, with a view to beginning the implementation of its recommendations in 2007.

I am aware that the HSE has established a working group on residential treatment and rehabilitation for substance users. This group, on which my Department is represented, is examining the residential rehabilitation requirements of people involved in all forms of substance misuse, including the misuse of alcohol. Its report is likely to be available early in the first half of next year.

I am disappointed that just one third of my original question has been answered. I spoke to the Minister about it, but I want to raise it now with the Ceann Comhairle. I am very annoyed. The question I originally tabled was "to ask the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the alternatives to methadone treatment that exist for heroin misusers; the structures in place to allow them to become drug free; the progress made in relation to the new rehabilitation tier of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter". I have received an answer to the third part of that question, but the first two parts of the question were the most important and I want answers to them. I will write to the Ceann Comhairle about the matter.

As the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, is in charge of the drugs strategy, he is responsible for answering questions about alternatives to methadone. If I am lucky, I will get an answer to the final two parts of my question from the HSE by Christmas, although it is more likely to be Christmas of next year. I would like a proper discussion about new drugs and other developments in this area, but that is not possible because someone in the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs decided that it was a matter for someone other than the Minister of State. That is what is wrong with this country's approach to the drugs problem — nobody wants to take responsibility for tackling it. I told the Minister of State previously that while I accept he has an interest in this area, I do not feel the Government is really committed to solving the problem. If it was committed to dealing with this matter, I would not have received a letter telling me that my question had to be chopped in three and referred to other Departments.

What was the bit that was excluded?

Two bits were excluded from the question. I asked about the "alternatives to methadone treatment that exist for heroin misusers" and "the structures in place to allow them to become drug free". If the Minister of State's section of the Department is not responsible for such matters, we are wasting our time here. We are supposed to be debating the problem of drugs and the Government's strategy for dealing with it. They are the two key aspects of the matter. According to the Government's figures, more than 8,000 people are on methadone and it is costing approximately €30 million. I cannot get further details of the matter or have a discussion on it. How can we talk about the drugs strategy, treatment and rehabilitation when responsibility for providing answers is given to another organisation? I will not get an answer to my question for many months. The Minister of State knows as well as I do what happens in the Health Service Executive when a question is referred to it.

I invite the Deputy to ask a supplementary question.

I will. I am very concerned about this matter and my question needs to be answered.

The Deputy has made his point.

It is not good enough. The Minister of State said last May, in response to a question, that the working group would publish its review by the middle of the year. He answered the same question in October by saying it would be published in a couple of months. He is saying today that it will be published by the end of the year. When will the review be published? Can the Minister of State give us a clue? His reference to actions 47, 48 and 50 of the strategy was the first hint we got of what the working group might be talking about. Will he give us his opinions on the matter? Has he met the members of the working group? He said previously he would not meet them until they had published the full review, but I think he has a duty to meet them before that.

As the Minister of State is the expert in this area, he should be involved in the process. The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which chose not to answer these questions, should have the expertise in this regard. What does the Minister of State think should be contained in the new structure? What does he think we should concentrate on? He mentioned housing, for which he is responsible, and jobs. People who are trying to come down off drugs can have problems getting housing, such as rented accommodation, and then getting jobs. Getting off drugs is like coming out of prison. We have to find a place in society for such people without any hassle. They should not have to knock on the doors of public representatives to get help. If we get people off drugs, it is in our interest to keep them off drugs. We really have to act on this. If the working group does not report until January and the Minister of State then spends six months reviewing the report, we will still be talking about this matter this time next year.

I did not know that part of the Deputy's question had been excluded.

That is my point.

I do not even see any words that——

I accept that the Minister of State was not aware, but that is what is wrong.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle might help the Deputy in that regard.

No. The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, not the Ceann Comhairle or the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, cut the question in three.

Methadone is the main substitute form of treatment for heroin users. The National Advisory Committee on Drugs produced a major report on a form of medication called Subutex, which is a form of buprenorphine, two years ago. Subutex is used in a number of countries — it is almost as popular as methadone in some countries. The report was referred to the Minister for Health and Children at the time. She has been examining the matter, but the drug has not been made fully available. The Irish Medicines Board is responsible for approving all forms of medication — I do not have that responsibility. Buprenorphine, which is generally made available in tablet form, is deemed to be good for people who are fairly focused and stable. As it takes 15 or 20 minutes to dissolve buprenorphine under one's tongue, many people in the Health Service Executive feel it offers a fairly large opportunity for diversion. Therefore, it has not become widely used here. It can be prescribed by individual doctors, but it is not in mainstream use. It is legal, but it is not used on a wide scale because of the fears of the authorities in respect of it.

I thank the Minister of State for answering that part of my original question.

Approximately 8,000 people are on methadone at present. It is estimated that there are approximately 14,500 heroin misusers in this country. Approximately 4,700 of the 8,000 methadone users are being treated in clinics, approximately 2,800 of them are being treated by their general practitioners and approximately 400 of them are being treated under prison-based methadone programmes. Some 225 general practitioners throughout the country are involved in methadone maintenance, of whom 181 are based in the eastern region and 44 are based outside the eastern region. Delays often arise when people realise there is a demand in a place like Limerick or Waterford, because the doctors and other medical people in such areas may not be trained in the best forms of care. They may be trained to level 1, rather than to level 2. It is not always the case that the service can be opened up because doctors and pharmacies need to be part of it. More than 370 pharmacies are participating in the programme, more than 200 of which are in Dublin. It is significant that approximately 150 participating pharmacies are outside Dublin. I have provided some of the information that Deputy English was looking for.

I do not deny that the deliberations of the rehabilitation working group, which is chaired by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, have continued for much longer than I thought they would. That the process has lasted so long is good and bad. There is no point in a report being signed by me or by somebody in the Department if people in the HSE, in particular, as well as in the voluntary side, have not signed up to the various services. The working group has encountered many hiccups. It holds frequent meetings. I am sure the officials who are dealing with the group would like it to conclude its deliberations. If the delays result in the production of a good report that everyone can sign up to, they might be worthwhile. A great deal is happening in respect of rehabilitation. Putting 8,000 people on methadone was a short-term measure that was supposed to last a couple of years.

It is now a long-term approach.

I accept that. A great deal of good work is being done in the area of rehabilitation, but some unfocused work is also being undertaken. The working group will try to suggest some structures to pull it all together and develop best practice. Some of the rehabilitation work is not great, although most of it is great. It may be the case that more people on community employment schemes, for example, should be involved.

I appreciate the Minister of State's answer. I am glad that we have been able to discuss the alternative to methadone. That was all I wanted. I understand why we are stuck with methadone, but we should try to move away from it at some stage. The Minister of State said that the working group's deliberations have taken much longer than was planned. The same thing happened with the regional drug task forces — they took a year or two longer than planned to conclude their reports. Can the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources set deadlines for the production of reviews and reports? Can the Minister of State give me a guarantee we will discuss this report before Christmas?

I hope that they will have completed the job before Christmas, but I doubt we will be launching it or discussing it before then.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Seán Crowe


5 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs how the recent Government approval of the allocation of almost €1 million from the dormant accounts to fund 20 projects providing suicide prevention supports will be spent; the number of groups that applied for such funding; the number that have received funding; how they are assessed for eligibility; if further funding will be allocated to this area; and which will be the lead Department in the distribution of these funds. [37289/06]

Funding to assist suicide prevention initiatives is one of the priority measures approved by the Government for support from the dormant accounts fund in 2006. Details concerning the allocation of almost €1 million from the dormant accounts fund to support 20 suicide prevention projects were announced on 23 October 2006.

The key objective of this funding measure is to provide interventions and supports to strengthen community-based initiatives, particularly those targeting young men under 35 years of age. The intention of the funding is to support locally-based initiatives that deal with suicide prevention. The projects approved are varied and include the provision of early intervention measures for those at risk and also the provision of services for those bereaved through suicide. Details of the projects, including the grants approved and the specific actions proposed, have been provided as an appendix to this reply.

The lead Department for this funding measure is the Department of Health and Children. We engaged an agency to administer the application and assessment process. In total, 125 applications were received in response to a public invitation. In accordance with section 44(1) of the Dormant Accounts Acts 2001 to 2005, all applications were evaluated against criteria which were published. An inter-departmental committee considered the recommendations and approved them.

While the dormant accounts fund comes within my Department's remit, the lead Department in the distribution of these funds is the Department of Health and Children. Accordingly, the funding for the approved projects will be channelled through that Department's Vote. The question of further funding from dormant accounts to support suicide prevention initiatives will be a matter to be considered by the Government in the Minister's annual submission of proposals under section 43 of the Dormant Accounts Acts. Mainstream funding to support suicide prevention initiatives is a matter for the Minister for Health and Children.

Social and Economic Disadvantage Category - Funding Measure — Suicide Prevention

Name of Group


Purpose of Funding

Grant Amount


Drumcondra, Dublin 9

To provide professional counselling and support service to those bereaved through suicide and those who are suicidal in Clondalkin area.


Suicide Network Ballymun

Ballymun, Dublin 9

To carry out suicide intervention skills workshop in Ballymun and to compile a local directory of services around mental health promotion.


TEAM Educational Theatre Company

Dublin 1

To explore the issue of suicide within the context of a play which is scheduled to run in secondary schools over 8 weeks in Autumn 2006.


Roscommon Lions Club

Co. Roscommon

Provision of suicide awareness training and public awareness programme. Production of magazine promoting positive mental health.


Community Creations

Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

To promote an awareness and outreach project in the North West with regard to mental health needs.


Ballymun Arts and Community Resource Centre

Dublin 9

To fund dance workshops with specialist teachers trained in suicide prevention measures. Workshops to be part of transition year curriculum in local college.


Awareness Education Office

Dublin 7

To fund a new youth suicide prevention programme which concentrates on self worth and self-appreciation.


Limerick Mental Health Association

Co. Limerick

To renovate and refurbish a premises in Limerick city as a permanent base for Le Chéile which provides services for those with coping difficulties.


S.T.E.E.R Ireland

Co. Donegal

To develop a Recovery Guide programme which provides emotional, psychological and technical support to those at risk and bereaved families.


Finn Valley Alliance for Positive Mental Health

Co. Donegal

To recruit a co-ordinator to work with students and teachers locally on suicide prevention and awareness issues.



Dublin 4

To deliver lifeskills/life coaching programme with a specific focus on suicide prevention.


Families of Beara Support Group

Co. Cork

To develop a counselling room in Adrigole for counselling and support services.


Dundalk Counselling Centre

Co. Louth

To provide a range of counselling services in relation to suicide prevention including one-to-one counselling sessions with trained staff.


Blue Drum — The Arts Specialist Support Agency

Dublin 17

To work creatively with 6 community groups in Dublin city to explore suicidal behaviour among clients and the wider community.


Kerry Adolescent Counselling Service

Co. Kerry

To implement a comprehensive Suicide Prevention Programme to second year students in the more remote areas of Co. Kerry.


Forever Fathers

Co. Donegal

To produce a series of psychodrama workshops to teach suicide intervention skills to young men.


Living Life Voluntary Counselling Centre Ltd

Co. Wicklow

Recruitment of a part-time suicide counsellor servicing centres in Bray, Dún Laoghaire and Arklow.


County Wexford Partnership

Co. Wexford

To pilot a professional stress helpline for Co. Wexford which will act as an early intervention measure.


National Learning Network

Co. Cork

To facilitate the delivery of the Peer Support Education Programme to young people in the Cork/Kerry region.


Smashing Times Theatre Company

Dublin 7

To promote positive mental health and to raise suicide awareness through participative drama workshops and professional theatre performance.


Total Recommended Allocation


I thank the Minister of State for his reply. This question is in response to the debate we had in late October. In that debate, the Minister of State said that 11,000 young people cause themselves deliberate self-harm every year and that Ireland has the fifth highest suicide rate in the EU for 15 to 24 year olds. The rate is even higher for men in their 20s and 30s, with men under 35 accounting for approximately 40% of suicides. I welcome the fact that the funding was given to groups, but there were 125 applications for funding.

Does the Minister of State accept that more funding is needed in this area? How important is this issue? We had cross-party support on it. Does he accept that we are doing enough and that the figures I read out are frightening? He stated that funding was a matter for the Government, but is the role of community involvement not as important?

There is a voluntary group in my own area called Teenline, which covers all of Ireland. It was set up in July and it received 1,000 phone calls between then and October, covering everything from suicidal feelings to attempted suicide, relationship bereavement, loneliness, violent assault, sexual assault and so on. The difficulty is that this is just one group and it has received no funding. The group operates on Friday and Saturday for a couple of hours. I have spoken to its volunteers and they told me that they receive no funding whatsoever. The group did not apply for funding as it was established in 2003 but only registered in 2005 and it did not wish to operate out of somebody's house. It is one of those groups that has fallen through the gaps. The group has no register, so if somebody rings in from Kerry, the group cannot refer the person to any service in that county.

This group is a first for Ireland and there is no training provided, so it must buy in services from abroad. I am aware that the lead Department is the Department of Health and Children, but this is a community initiative so I want the Minister of State with responsibility for community affairs to take this on board. Suicide is a growing problem and the community response can help. Can the Minister of State look at the possibility of helping these groups in the future?

A cross-departmental committee was set up this year on the dormant accounts fund and this was one of the projects mentioned. We have €60 million to spend this year, of which €24 million was spent on social and economic disadvantage. The next programme will probably cost €30 million and if the Deputy recommends it and we get good feedback, we will consider the project next year. We were delivering two years' worth of funding this time.

I accept that only 20 applications received money out of 125 applications. We did not decide the assessment criteria as we hired an outside agency, Pobal, which made recommendations based on its criteria. We did not change the recommendations as they came in, but they liaised with the National Office of Suicide Prevention. I accept that many of the groups that received money seemed to be fairly professional and that Pobal went for those applications rather than smaller community applications.

The National Office of Suicide Prevention was set up in the last year and it received €1.2 million in funding for its own work. The Department of Health and Children spends about €800 million on mental health per annum. This funding was put forward as a suggestion to help community groups and I am sure it will be considered again next year. The overall funding may be smaller, but that depends on the response and the reaction to what we have done.